- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2005

‘Jammed’ by bureaucracy

The saddest part of your editorial regarding Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Lott (“The ordeal of Staff Sgt. Michael Lott, Tuesday) is that situations like his are by no means confined to his case or to the Marine Corps. The fact is that the service bureaucracies insist upon sanctifying personnel actions taken long before September 11 that have neither utility nor relevance to a wartime force. Inertia, perhaps?

As a civil affairs officer, I went north in March 2003 in the company of the finest junior officer I ever served with, who received two Bronze Star Medals during his deployment. This officer had the misfortune of being passed over for promotion by two centralized boards although he was fully qualified and had no “bad paper” in his file. Despite urgent entreaties from three general officers and a pyramid of colonels and lieutenant colonels who recognized his worth and potential, the bureaucracy saw no reason to correct this obvious error, and the Army is in violation of its own regulations by not having discharged this magnificent soldier.

Perhaps as we try to maintain our strength during prolonged deployments and stresses on the force, we should start by correcting long-standing decisions about outstanding service members when those decisions have no utility today.

MICHAEL P. FINN

Belton, Texas

I want to be clear that I do not know Staff Sgt. Lott. However, your editorial piqued my attention. I am the current ordnance officer for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14. Sgt. Lott would have been working for me. I have seen many e-mails and heard many Lott stories since the editorial ran. I believe Sgt. Lott did a superb job in Kuwait; however, his performance prior to that was not up to Marine Corps standards.

I understand he has about three bad reports; you only need one to get passed over for promotion. I have no comment on Sgt. Lott as an ordnance tech. However, his past officers know him well and are outstanding Marines. I find it hard to believe that these guys would allow Sgt. Lott to be jammed if it were not warranted.

CAPT. WILLIAM A. BURWELL

Marine aviation ordnance officer

Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14

Cherry Point, N.C.

Sharpton ‘the compassionate’

The Rev. Al Sharpton should be applauded for promoting compassion and understanding for all of God’s creatures, much as several others in our history have done — Jesus and Gandhi immediately come to mind (“Fowl play,” Tuning in to TV, Arts etc., Monday). Jesus said that God feeds the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26) and does not forget sparrows (Luke 12:6). The Hebrew writings forbid inhumane slaughter or cruelty toward beasts of burden (Exodus 23:5; Deuteronomy 22:6?7, 25:4). Yet, in the United States, virtually all food derived from animals is obtained through intensive factory farming methods that are horrific and cruel.

Psalm 145:9 reminds us, “The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” In my view, Mr. Sharpton is just doing his part to follow God’s teachings, and I thank him for it. That’s the great thing about compassion; it doesn’t have limits.

LIZ ABBOTT

Hampton, Va.

Competition works

In “A health care loophole” (Op-Ed, Thursday) Charles N. Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, veils the hospital industry’s fear of competition from specialty hospitals under a blizzard of skewed statistics — yet fails to point out the many compelling arguments for specialty hospitals. These have led the American Medical Association, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times editorial pages to endorse them as a reasonable alternative to traditional hospitals for some patient care.

The most notable reason for supporting specialty hospitals is improved quality of care. A three-year study of MedCath (a chain of heart specialty hospitals) found that the MedCath hospitals cared for sicker patients than the local hospitals and had better outcomes. MedCath hospitals also treated more complex cardiac cases and had a higher proportion of patients undergo surgery compared to hospitals treating similar patients.

Competition works. And in the hospital industry, the addition of specialty hospitals to the mix gives patients more choice, forcing existing hospitals to innovate to keep patients coming to them. This is a win-win situation in providing a better quality of care.

Support for specialty hospitals in no way diminishes the important role of the general hospital in the community. Providing emergency and safety-net care are important and necessary aspects of hospital care — and general and nonprofit hospitals should be adequately reimbursed for this work.

To ensure that safety-net hospitals receive proper funding, Congress should change the Medicare Hospital Prospective Payment System to minimize the need for cross-subsidization and accurately reflect relative costs of hospital care. It also should correct the flawed methodology for allocating Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals treating a disproportionate share of these patients.

The current system of using higher-paying services to subsidize lower or uncompensated community services should be realigned so that hospital payments better compensate for essential services. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice agree, saying “governments should re-examine the role of subsidies in health-care markets in light of their inefficiencies and the potential to distort competition.”

Supporting health-delivery innovations that enhance the value of health care for patients is the only way to truly improve quality of care while reining in health care costs. Specialty hospitals deliver on this promise — and fear of change won’t make that go away.

DR. JOHN C. NELSON

President

American Medical Association

Washington

Tehran a threat

The article “Tehran would avenge attack” (World, Monday) reveals what a danger Tehran really is. Hassan Rohani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, arrogantly warns the United States and Israel of retaliation in case of an attack on his country’s nuclear facilities. It shows that he is afraid such an attack might take place before Iran is able to complete its nuclear weapons program. In the meantime, he is trying to delay and postpone any plans by the European Union and United Nations to slow down Iran’s research and development. He is brazen enough to declare that no sanctions or incentives will stop his country’s pursuit to become a nuclear power.

In view of such defiance, how can we solve this problem with diplomacy and negotiations with a nation that does not conform to any internationally recognized means of dipomacy?

PAUL S. JAFFE

Silver Spring


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